Jamaica Gleaner
Published: Monday | July 6, 2009
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A parent's courage
Emma Dalton-Brown, Gleaner Writer

When a child is born, the parents are burdened with eternal worry for the health and safety of said offspring. All of a sudden, you are absolutely certain that you would sacrifice your life for another's. The thought of losing a son or daughter is unfathomable and every bit of you will fight to stop this from ever happening. "Isn't that a fact!" I hear many of you saying.

Having your baby admitted to the Special Care and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) is a bad dream for every mother and father. I should know, as our son was brought in twice, for a total of nine days, within the first two weeks of his life. All is well now, but that doesn't take away the stress and worry that fills you while it's happening.

"You're not a basket case because of postnatal hormones," I reassured a friend, who went through a similar process with her newborn not long after I had. "As soon as you take her home, you'll be as relieved and relaxed as can be." I too had been told by countless people that it was the hormones making me tearful. What a pile of baby poop! Your kid is in hospital for a serious case of jaundice, having his eyes bandaged up for 48 hours, then he gets fever and is subjected to a spinal tap and all sorts of other tests. Let's not forget that he is also hooked up to an IV that needs to be relocated every time the fluid leaks out of his veins, and he started out his life with oxygen tubes up his nose. Of course you're upset!! What do you expect?

The truth is, our families did not go through half of what most do in the NICU. There are countless premature babies whose lives began eight, 10 and sometimes 13 weeks too early. The latter was actually a little girl who showed the world that she is a fighter. Born to a mother who came in to the hospital from out of town every day for six months straight, she was finally allowed to go home, and I witnessed her departure with goose bumps trickling through my body. Where this woman found the strength to do what she did, I shall never know. I only met them in their last 14 days there, but feeling as I did during our son's stay, I have a little idea of what a nightmare it was for her. This article is partly dedicated to one healthy, strong and mighty baby girl who was born in November last year.

The other half of my dedication goes out to a mother whom I met during one of my preterm labour visits to the labour ward at the University Hospital of the West Indies. She too was in danger of having her babies (twins) too early and, unfortunately, she was not as lucky as I was in being able to prevent their birth in April this year. A couple weeks later, my baby boy was in a cot opposite one of her girls in the NICU. Her other precious one had not made it. Life dishes out tragedy randomly, and my love and thoughts go out to her and her family. For her daughter who finally got to go home, your twin sister will always be in everyone's hearts.

There were many mummies and daddies who had to withstand these strains while we were, and even more who are living through it all every day since we left. The friends and family around you are helpless in such dire situations, but what they can do for you is offer support. It does help to open up about your fears and concerns. Don't be afraid to ask them to bring you food, or just come and sit with you in the hospital canteen around the corner. No one can be certain if things will turn out okay, but some hugs and ears to listen will do wonders for a parent's courage.


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